A separate community
Records from schools for the deaf reveal information
about students and the schools
I kept looking out the window with the hopes the rain would let up, as a rainy Saturdays meant no getting outdoors to play. In our day we had no television or computer games to entertain us, so sometimes Cliff and I got very bored. We had already played Chinese Checkers as well as Snakes and Ladders but the time dragged by.
Mum sat down at the table with a small book and naturally we wondered what it would be. It didn't look like a storybook that she would read to us. We leaned against her side as she turned the pages. I was rather disappointed as all the small pictures on the pages seemed to be just hands and fingers. I couldn't imagine why she would want us to read this book.
We were in for a real surprise, as this was the instructions for talking with your hands. Mum explained that some children were deaf and also unable to speak thus had no way to communicate therefore they spoke with their fingers. She had learned this finger alphabet as a child and showed us how to form several letters to spell a message.
Needless to say, the rest of the day sped by as we tried to master the sign language. As Mum worked around the kitchen, she would stop and let her fingers do the talking to test our new skills.
In January of 1858, six-year old Alfred Henry Abell, son Eliza Jane and Edward James Abell of Saint John took Scarlet Fever. The disease left him totally deaf. When he was eight years old he was sent off to Halifax to spend the next five years at the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb.
In a letter dated February 11, 1874 Alfred Abell wrote that he had opened a school for the deaf on the sixth of November, 1873 in Room 12, third flat of Ritchie's Building on Princess St. By the next year, attendance included 11 adults in the evening school, six in the day school (four females between the ages of 10 and 15, plus two adult males who worked in a mill part of the year), and another 5 in the academic class held on Sundays. Two other deaf students were being provided written instructions to use at home.
He wrote several letters to the provincial government concerning the introduction of the act "‘the St. John Deaf and Dumb Compulsory Educational Act".
In 1882, an article in the Daily Sun gave details of his newest location on the Howe's Lake Road of a three-story institution with 33 rooms, a student body of 22 and a 5 person staff.
For 16 years Alfred Abell was involved with the education of the deaf in Saint John.
After the closure of the Saint John School, deaf students attended a school in Fredericton.
James Harvey Brown played a major role in lobbying for a school in Saint John and in 1903 the Jewett Mansion with 15 acres of land on Lancaster Heights was purchased by Brown and a group of wealthy individuals for $90,000. It was large enough to accommodate 40 deaf pupils. At about the same time the New Brunswick Legislature enacted a law "that every deaf child should be educated at the expense of the Province". It is interesting to note that the law did not provide funding for acquisition of buildings.
Dr. Clifton F. Carbin of Burlington, Ontario was deafened at the age of four and is presently employed as the first Deaf administrator within the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training. His dream was to write a book about the history of the deaf. His research has taken him into every province and territory of Canada, into dusty attic and musty basements, stomping through soggy cemeteries and sifting through years of newspaper clippings and boxes of faded photographs. But what he has unearthed, after more than a decade of work, is a culture treasure for both deaf and hearing Canadians in his 600-page book, ‘Deaf Heritage In Canada' - a window through which we can catch a glimpse of not only the history of deaf Canadians but of their everyday lives, responding to events around them and making a difference in the future of their local Deaf communities.
The ‘Seventh Report of the Deaf and Dumb Institution of New Brunswick for 1884' prepared by the principal, A. H. Abell. is at the Saint John Free Public Library and lists the 40 students and their county of residence as well as many details of this Saint John school.
The Journals of the House of Assembly also provide the names of students as well as information on the Deaf and Dumb Institutions of New Brunswick. The names of more than 60 pupils who were attending the Saint John school can be found in the Journal of 1877.
Although the deaf may have lived in a silent world, their story now echoes
from sea to sea, thanks to Dr. Clifton F. Carbin.
If anyone has information on or is a descendant of Dr. Alfred Abell,
please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Abell may possibly have roots in Prince Edward Island that go back to England.
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Nash - Hudlin: I am seeking information on the siblings and parents of my grandparents, Flossie Hudlin and Edward Nash. I believe they had family members in Marysville and Fredericton as well as in Saint John. Any help that can be given would be greatly appreciated.
-Ethel Nash, 81 Spar Cove Road, Saint John, N.B., E2K 4K6. E-mail to email@example.com.
Johnson - Seely: My great-grandfather was a Robert Ansley Johnson born in1859 in New Brunswick and married Alice Tryphena Seely about 1885. His father was George Johnson who was also born in New Brunswick and his mother's surname was Clifford. I am trying to locate more information on the Johnson line. Was he possibly related to Ozias Ansley?
-Donna D. Reinhard, 10710 Sharon Ave., Sunland, CA., 91040, USA. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ruby is a genealogy buff. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at email@example.com. When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.